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Public should have greater access to Carrizo Plain Ecological Reserve


How can the public get more and better access to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Carrizo Plain Ecological Reserve?

First, some background: The ecological reserve is located between the Carrizo Plains National Monument and the Los Padres National Forest on the north side of the Cuyama River Valley. The area is about mid-way between Interstate 5 and Santa Maria along Highway 166.

The bulk of the ecological reserve is made up of the Chimineas Ranch, both the north and south units of a 30,000-acre cattle ranch. The land was acquired by the Nature Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, cooperating with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Land Management. The property was made an Ecological Reserve by the Fish and Game Commission in 1993, and its management is facilitated by the Chimineas Ranch Foundation, created in 2007 to assist the DFW.

Here’s the rub. Public access is severely restricted, with walk-on visitation only allowed to the South Chimineas from a few access points along Highway 166, and you have to have a permit (downloaded off the DFW’s website in advance). The North Chimineas is completely closed to public access.

Hunting access is allowed only on the South Chimineas part of the Carrizo Plain Ecological Reserve, and it is only allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays during three periods: Sept. 1-15, Dec. 1-31, and Jan. 1-31. Only doves, quail, rabbits, and wild hogs are legal game on the Ecological Reserve during these periods.

[Here is the direct link to the DFW website where you can download permits:]

The DFW also has three special drawing-only upland bird hunts where successful applicants (and two guests each) are allowed to drive into the South Chimineas unit to hunt. This season they were Sept. 9, Dec. 9, and Jan. 6. I was invited as a guest to attend by Stefan Smith of Topanga Canyon who was drawn for the last hunt of the season.

Smith (in photo below) and I saw a pile of valley quail, from 150 to 200 birds. We only hunted a pair of canyons down to where they came together. We didn’t kill many because of the steepness of the terrain and the junipers often screened birds as they flushed. There were a number of hunters (probably those more familiar with the area) who shot limits of 10 birds in areas with more hunter-friendly terrain.

It is a great hunting opportunity, and I wish the DFW would have at least two special upland bird hunts per month from October through January so more hunters would get access to see this interesting piece of property.

Or even better, the agency should simply open up the ecological reserve’s roads and access for the whole year, except when weather would necessitate road closures. This would allow for better public access for hunting and other uses -- birding, wildlife photography, hiking, etc. It would also allow access to large tracts of public Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands that have no other access except through the ecological reserve.

Lastly, the ecological reserve has well over 200 tule elk (I saw about 30 right off Highway 166 on the DFW land), and yet the DFW doesn’t have any special hunts for elk on the ecological reserve. Does anyone know why not? Hunters who draw La Panza elk tags may not hunt the ecological reserve, and it is very unclear if hunters can access BLM and U.S. Forest Service where elk hunting is allowed by going through the ecological reserve.

This is a great piece of public property with too little access, and no explanations as to why it is closed up tighter than a drum.

[For those of you who would like to apply for a Carrizo bird hunt for next year, here is the direct link to information on these hunts and how to apply:]

Deer tag reporting

deadline is Jan. 31

The deadline to submit deer tag harvest (or lack of harvest) information is January 31, and about half of those who purchased deer tags for the 2017 hunting seasons have yet to report whether or not they shot a deer this past fall.

There were over 13,000 deer hunters who did not provide the mandatory harvest information last year who paid the $21.60 non-reporting fee -- in addition to their regular deer tag fees -- when they applied for 2017 deer tags, according to Brad Burkholder with the DFW in Sacramento. He said the number of hunters submitting harvest reports is behind last year at this same point in time.

Hunters can do their harvest reporting on line or mail in the report card portion of their deer tags to: CDFW Wildlife Branch, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94299-0002. The direct link for on-line reporting is the same website where hunters can order licenses, tags, and stamps:

The information provided by hunters under this mandatory reporting helps CDFW biologists make accurate estimates of deer populations, set season dates and harvest quotas, and even helps define new hunting opportunities.

Special youth waterfowl hunting day

There is a special statewide youth waterfowl hunting day on February 3 just for hunters with junior licenses. This is a week after the closure of the regular waterfowl hunting season, and the San Jacinto Wildlife Area is again making the junior hunt a special event, having a pancake breakfast and lunch for the young hunters and their families.

New this year, San Jacinto regular Chaz Prato has organized a fun “competition” for the junior hunters called the Junior Duck Wars. All junior hunters drawn and participating in the junior hunt at San Jacintio will automatically be entered in the free event, and they will be awarded points for the different waterfowl they bag based on the rarity of the duck or goose taken. Awards will be giving for the 10 junior hunters with the highest point total.

For more information, call the San Jacinto Wildlife Area at 951-928-0580.

Raahauge sporting clays range closure

Starting Monday, Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises popular sporting clays shotgun shooting range in Corona will closed for maintenance and rennovations.

The closure is expected to last about two weeks.

The rifle and pistol ranges will remain open during the closure of the sporting clays range.

For updates, you can visit the club’s website at, or you can call the range at 951-735-7981.


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